Fabbaloo Reader Needs 3D Print Assistance

By on July 8th, 2011 in learning, Usage


Reader Andy Robb is a mechanical designer who’s interested in producing real-life versions of models he’s been working on. What kind of project? It’s a series of 1/6th scale model RC tanks, as pictured at left (click for larger image and check out the colored items that are likely what he’s seeking to produce). He’s not printing the whole tank, as it is quite large – but he does intend on producing various small pieces of it. He says: 
I am researching the possibility of taking the plunge and buying a 3d printer either a hobby version or a v flash or even a SBRP (Roland MDX40 for example). I’d be buying this to facilitate me building parts for a large scale model I am building, I’m looking for ease of use, decent resolution and a half sensible build size (250mm x 200mm x 200mm).
And if you don’t believe this, take a look at the picture below that shows the tank under construction. As you can see, this is a massive project. We’re wondering if it will fire live shells, too!  
Our thoughts initially were:
  • How much money is budgeted for this 3D printing? If it’s not much, then the only option is one of the inexpensive 3D printer kits. If a lot more, then heavy-duty commercial options are possible
  • How much time can Andy dedicate to building and maintaining a 3D printer? If it’s not a lot of time, then assembled printers or a print service should be the focus
  • What qualities must the resulting object have? What size (see above)? What durability? Strength? Color?
Perhaps Andy can answer some of these in a comment?
The question is now tossed to you, dear readers, to provide some advice for Andy. Should he buy/borrow a 3D printer? What kind? What about using a 3D print service? Both? 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!


  1. Hey Andy,

    I assume you stay in the States? I could show you a few parts but we're in Cape Town, South Africa. Again, I can only speak from the machines we use but for the best level of detail we use the Objet 350v which prints in layers of 16 micron. There, it's a costly machine so best to outsource theses parts. Material is also expensive so you don't want to print large parts on it. If you drop me an email I can send you a few pics? We've found ZCorp parts to be the best compromise between detail and cost. The parts would need to be sanded though to achieve a smooth surface. If you view our website, all the white parts have come off our ZCorp 510. http://www.protoform.co.za

    A switched on local supplier should have a gut feel/pretty good idea of what's feasible detail wise, depending on the material and machine they use.

    Have you approached someone like http://www.shapeways.com? They have the range but may be pricey?

    Kind Regards,

  2. Many thanks for your response, all good points.

    My all up budget is 10k, and that should inculde every thing, maybe I'd be better off spending the money on the components via various online fab shops…..I'm not sure, I need a relaible company that will print what I want reasonably quickly, with out charging an arm and a leg for the component. Also whats tricky is working out what or how much detail will come through on the print…. I have just spent about $180 on a part through 3d proparts using there SLA machine, but it's a bit of a lottery if what I get printed will include all the small detail..

    It's all a bit of a mine field to be honest.


  3. Hey Andy,

    Nice project!

    Some quick thoughts.

    We supply parts from a ZCorp 510, Dimension uPrint and Objet 350v so perhaps one of the other guys using one the machine you mentioned can comment from experience.

    Broadly speaking, having your own machine is great: you can make stuff! It does mean you are limited to some extent by the machine you purchase. Each machine has its own strengths and weaknesses so one machine may produce very functional parts but at a lower resolution or visa versa. You'd be able to grow things at "cost" and print and reprint as you wish and not be limited by business hours, giving you more freedom. I know with our machine there was also an additional outlay for software required to prepare and print the files. I'm not sure if that's included in you quote?

    On the flip side, outsourcing parts mean no big capital outlay and getting a specialist to grow your parts, in a variety of materials and have them deal with the power cuts, file errors and other headaches that the agents often don't warn you about 😉 . It does mean you’ll pay more per part, have longer lead times, etc.

    Most parts with a bit of elbow grease, filler and sanding are more than suitable to use as a master for your moulds. Many ABS printed parts could even be used straight from the machine.

    Chat with guys who have these machines. Judging from your project, I’d say if you have the extra cash, are going to get quite a bit of mileage out of it, are hands on(to assemble a kit or repair issues) and don’t mind dealing with a couple teething issues(plenty forums you could get assistance from) then getting a machine makes sense and could be very rewarding.

    Hope this helps.

    Best of luck!

  4. Hi many thanks for sharing my question on the website.

    Budget for 3d printing is upto 10k, on the basis that I can make many more models instead of just one.

    I don't really want to spend hours and hours watching over a machine make a simple part because it needs constant management…

    Strength should be no worse than resin, colour doesn't matter as it'll be painted, durability isn't too much of a concern as I intend to cast anything delicate into resin duplicates and preserve the original.

    I was looking at the following machines:-


    In roughly that order.


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